I enjoy rifles, and have accumulated a few during my hunting career. All of them are special to me for one reason or another, but only one of them was my dad’s favorite rifle. Thus it’s my favorite as well.
My dad passed before I was born, so we never had a chance to hunt together. But my mom kept his favorite rifle for me in case I wanted to be a hunter, too. I am grateful that she did.
My dad’s rifle is a Pre-‘64 Model 70 Winchester in .270 Winchester. Jack O’Connor’s rifle in Jack O’Connor’s caliber. Dad restocked it, including the oil finish, to O’Connor’s specifications. I have a copy of the article he worked from. The wood and stock are beautiful, but if you look closely at the checkering you can tell it was done by a gifted amateur and not a skilled professional.
The bolt is polished, by hand and by use, and the operation is silky smooth. Because I have none of the skills necessary to make such a handsome rifle, I hold it with a sense of awe and a bit of envy. I began hunting and shooting later than most, so it took years to appreciate just how special a rifle Dad left me.
With its 24-inch barrel and good handloads, the velocity and accuracy are wonderful to behold – as are the results. I call it my magic wand. Deer drop, period. (Well, almost always.) The 130-grain Nosler Ballistic tip is perfect for the deer here in Texas. And it shoots 1-inch groups regularly if I do my part, though its best group was fired with factory ammo–a three shot, 1/2 minute of angle group at 200 yards! I wish I were the rifle’s equal.
I took my first deer at age 27 using factory ammunition and the old Weaver K-4 Dad used. Since then, the scope has changed several times and handloads have supplanted factory fodder. But the results are the same. Dad’s rifle and I have taken more than 20 animals together, including my first deer, antelope, turkey and coyote.
Dad’s rifle also opened less obvious doors for me. Because he was influenced by Jack O’Connor, I began reading O’Connor’s works and was exposed to the world of outdoor writers. Because Dad had handloaded, I tried it, too. I experienced the satisfaction of working up an accurate load, and the pride that comes when an animal is taken with the bullet you chose and the load you developed. Dad’s rifle also spoiled me here. It shot everything well, and it was not until handloading projects with other, more finicky, rifles that I realized again what a gift had been left to me.
I like to think my dad and I would be friends and hunting buddies today had he lived. I’m pretty sure I’m right. He left me a great gift in the .270, a piece of himself. I try to be worthy of it.–R. Bruce Moon