Per your request on the final page of the July/August issue of Safari Magazine, I’m dropping this brief note to give you data on the rifles/ammo and scopes that have been serving my varied needs best over the past 10 years or so. I’m keen to see the compilation and learn what others are doing and how things have changed over the past 30+ years.
My “favorite” rifle for the past six years has been a custom .257 Wby. built on a left-hand Remington Model 700 stainless action. The action is mated to a 26-inch Douglas barrel, all set in a McMillan black synthetic stock and packed around with an Uncle Mike’s neoprene sling. I’ve topped it with a Leupold VX-3 CDS 3.5-10X40mm scope and run handloads through it. I’ve used it on everything from elk, mule deer, caribou, Coues whitetails and coyotes stateside, to the varied bags in Africa stretching from jackals up to kudu, gemsbok and wildebeest. It will be with me on my first Stone’s sheep hunt in the Yukon in three weeks.
It has become my favorite for the following reasons: reduced recoil from a fast, flat-shooting cartridge, coupled with light weight (7.5 lbs.) and stainless/synthetic hardiness in a wide variety of environmental conditions. With handloads, it will consistently throw ragged one-hole groups at 100 yds. if I’m “on my game,” and I don’t own another rifle that can do that.
Second favorite in the arsenal is a Remington Mountain rifle chambered in .25-’06. It is the CDL model with beautiful wood (though showing some wear because I hunt in hard places and figure a rifle is to use, not just admire), and has a blued action and barrel. It is lightweight (6.75 lbs), and offers little recoil, but is a flat-shooter and has plenty of knock-down power for everything I chase in the Lower 48. I run handloads through this as well, and it, too, is topped with a Leupold VX-3, though standard issue with a duplex reticle, not the CDS dial.
You may have surmised that I have a preference for lighter cartridges with reduced recoil, fast velocities, flat trajectories and high hydrostatic-shock delivery. I am a firm believer in good marksmanship, and actually hunting an animal within reasonable range to make a good, sure shot. I place high value on one-shot kills. In my experience, bigger is definitely not better, but you have to know your capabilities when using lighter fare. It’s not for everyone, but works very well for me.
Lest I be labeled an “ultra light rifle snob,” my trusty Winchester Model 70 in .30-’06 still serves me well and has probably accounted for more big game animals than all my other rifles combined over my career. It’s a “Plain-Jane” walnut stock with blued action and barrel and still carries an old 3X9 Tasco scope that my father put on it 30 years ago. And yes, it still holds its zero quite nicely—just ask the Colorado bull I took with it last fall!