Of Patriots & Kentucky Windage


hunting optics adjustment dials
Custom bullet drop compensating elevation dials take the guess work out of hold over.

I’ve been noticing that more and more hunters are using their scope’s elevation adjustment to match various shooting distances rather than the Kentucky system of holding over and holding into, which is what most of us old timers use. That’s perfectly understandable in this day when most scope manufacturers offer some kind elevation turret calibrated to the trajectory of a specific load, or based on the average trajectory of similar cartridge groups/loads.

There’s no question that being able to “dial a distance” and hold dead-on at any range is better than having to guess the amount of hold-over. For any sort of long range competitive shooting, everyone dials in the various ranges, and so, too, do a lot of prairie rat shooters. With an accurately calibrated elevation dial and a laser rangefinder, one can do some very long shooting indeed. That of course assumes a very good scope, one that answers the helm accurately and consistently, no matter how many tunes one plays with the elevation adjustment. However, back in the Triassic when I started hunting, things were a little different.

For one, we didn’t have calibrated bullet drop compensating (BDC) reticles or turrets. And even the best scopes weren’t that precise adjustment-wise. Making a change in elevation often affected the windage setting and vice-versa, and variables would change point of impact between the highest and lowest setting by as much as 2 MOA. If you’re trying to dump a Pronghorn at 400-plus yards, that’s too much slop.

Reticle image
Virtually every scope manufacturer offers some kind of BDC reticle, which is another way to allow a dead-on hold at any distance.

I guess old habits die hard because even today I am still loathe to make the slightest change in my scope settings without having to check afterwards by shooting. I just can’t bring myself to trust `em, even though today’s scopes are much, much better. And that goes double for tactical scopes that are specifically designed for accurate and repeatable windage and elevation changes. But then tactical-quality scopes are considerably more expensive than even a maker’s top-of-the-line hunting scopes.

Virtually every scope I’ve tested over the last decade, or used on an industry hunt where I had no say as to the rifle or scope used, were equipped with a BDC reticle or turret, yet when the time came to pull the trigger, I always reverted back to the way I’ve always done it, and I’ll tell you why. For more than 50 years now all my hunting rifles are chambered 7 magnum-like calibers that have very similar trajectories out to 400 yards or more. I always zero-in and 250 yards, which means I’m 3-4 inches low at 300, and 13-14 inches low at 400. I know what a 14-inch hold-over looks like on a pronghorn, deer, elk or whatever. Beyond 400 yards I don’t shoot. Simple. It’s all so instinctive for me. Once I’ve established the range with a laser, I don’t have to take the precious time required to dial-in a distance, or figure which hash mark to use on the lower reticle arm. I just hold over (and into, if there’s a wind), and shoot. It may be Neanderthal, but it’s served me well for a long, long time.

Mossberg's new Patriot with walnut stock.
Mossberg’s new Patriot with walnut stock.

This past November I had the opportunity to field test the new Mossberg Patriot rifle on a whitetail hunt in Saskatchewan. Well, actually, using the term “new” isn’t really correct, because there have been no substantive design changes in what has for several years now has been Mossberg’s Model 4×4, a rifle based on a twin-lug, Mauser-type action with an excellent polycarbonate detachable magazine and a spiral fluted bolt. The bolt head is a separate component secured to the bolt body by a cross bolt with a hole through its center to allow passage of the firing pin. This arrangement allows the bolt head containing the twin-opposed locking lugs to have a few thousandths lateral play, which allows the lugs to seat themselves perfectly against their abutment surfaces. It’s like having a lapped action right out of the box.

Sundra tested the new Patriot on a Saskatchewan whitetail hunt.
Sundra tested the new Patriot on a Saskatchewan whitetail hunt.

The 4×4 can best be described as a “value-priced” bolt action meant to compete with Savage’s Axis, Ruger’s American and Remington’s 783, all priced in the 400-dollar range. Marlin’s X7 and Remington’s 770 could also be included in that category, but this last October it was announced that both lines were being discontinued.

Anyway, the changes made are purely cosmetic, but they make the Patriot the rifle it always should have been. I’m talking about the stock; it may be only one of many components, but it determines virtually all of whatever visual appeal a rifle may have. I don’t care how streamlined or technologically advanced the action may be, if the stock looks and feels like a canoe paddle, it’s going to have tough sledding in the marketplace. Such was the handle on the 4×4 (even the name suggesting a 4-wheel drive vehicle made little sense).

The Patriot is also available in .375 Ruger with laminate stock and open sights.
The Patriot is also available in .375 Ruger with laminate stock and open sights.

With its new stock I think the Patriot can now compete on a level playing field with those other rifles mentioned earlier. Three iterations are being offered: a black synthetic stock at $386 MSRP; a walnut stock at $438, and a black/gray wood laminate with a Marinecote barreled action at $584. Standard calibers offered are .22-250, .243, .25-06, .270, 7mm-08, .308 Win. and .30-06. In magnum calibers: 7mm Rem., .300 Win., .338 Win., and for the first time, .375 Ruger.–Jon R. Sundra

 

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